Behind the Beautiful Forevers - reviews of 'epic' stage show

David Hare turns bestselling book about Mumbai slums into a kaleidoscopic spectacle

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

What you need to know

David Hare's stage adaptation of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, has opened at the National Theatre, London. Rufus Norris directs Hare's new play, based on Katherine Boo's bestselling 'non-fiction novel' exploring the lives of the residents of Mumbai's Annawadi slum.

The play follows the lives and fates of various slum-dwellers, including Abdul an entrepreneurial teenage garbage trader; Sunil a stunted child garbage picker; Asha, a social-climbing fixer and her studious daughter Manju; and Fatima, a vengeful one-legged prostitute. Runs until 13 April. Broadcast live in cinemas on 12 March 2015.

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What the critics like

Rufus Norris's production brings the book to the stage "in compelling style" letting the book's characters live and breathe, says Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph. The evening unforgettably communicates a shaming sense of a world in which life is cheap and a piece of detritus can be the gateway to transient salvation.

Hare's "remarkable, sweeping and very human play" is a magnificent achievement, pulsing with theatricality and human spirit, says Stephen Collins on British Theatre. There is a great sense of spectacle in Hare's vision and it comes to graphic, kaleidoscopic reality under the direction of Norris.

This ambitious adaptation turns Boo's book into "a widescreen epic", says Stephen Dalton in the Hollywood Reporter. Striking theatrical flourishes make for a lively spectacle that dramatises a topical tale on a grand, Dickensian scale, and it's refreshing to see so many South Asian characters, many of them female, on a major London stage.

What they don't like

Hare's play is in sore need of a de-cluttering and ends up "more sprawling than epic", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. It's a shame, because there are enough beautifully played moments here to make you long for another draft of this intelligent but diffuse play that piles on too many agonies.

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